By Jim Byagua
In another show of strength, the opposition to proposed immigration legislation was powerfully demonstrated in many cities across the US on May Day. The “Day without Immigrants”, included a national boycott, strike, and student walkout, and was organized on 1 May to emphasise the role played within the US economy by immigrants. With more than a million people across the nation marching for immigrant workers’ rights, May Day has been reclaimed.
The marches were dominated by a self-conscious, militant Latino working class demanding an end to laws that force many of them into the lowest paid jobs in the country. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 7.2 million undocumented workers (4.9% of the overall US labor force) hold jobs in the United States, yet despite the inevitable competition for jobs between new and old immigrants, and between illegal and legal immigrants, there also exists a strong unity within the Latino community.
This unity and militancy is a significant development for the possibilities of improvements to workers’ rights and to working class struggle in the US, especially considering that the Latino population is expected to double over the next 50 years.
In Chicago, which hosted one of the largest marches in the country, many unions were visibly out in support. Polish, Irish, Asian, Arab, and Jewish immigrants spoke at the final rally, along with African Americans, in a show of solidarity. American flags were waved.
The demonstrations have caused some reverberations within the political establishment, although it is not clear what the long term outcomes will be. In 2004, roughly 40% of Hispanics voted for Bush, but this may now change. Despite having proposed other forms of anti-immigrant legislation, the Democrats may, unfortunately, reap the benefits.
• See also: http://labornotes.org